Ideas for Learners Promoting Literacy, Inquiry, and Meaningful Learning Experiences

A Million Shades of Gray by Cynthia Kadohata


Book Summary

In 1973, Y'Tin dreams of becoming an elephant handler. His village in the middle of South Vietnam is semi-protected from war by the jungle, but eventually, war finds Y'Tin.  Relying on advice from his father, and trusting his relationship with Lady, the elephant he cares for, Y'Tin struggles to do the right thing.  How can you follow your dreams when you are out of options?
A Million Shades of Gray book cover
A Million Shades of Gray

Book Review

This book is not a feel-good story about a boy's relationship with an elephant, but an exploration of how people behave when horrible things happen around them.  The first chapters are not as compelling as the middle and later chapters, and the plot is likely to disappoint readers: although it is well-crafted, it is frustrating that characters don't always behave with honor or kindness.  Although the book includes disturbing war-time content, it is full of rich discussion opportunities.

Topics and Themes for this book:

  • Vietnam War
  • Elephants
  • Self-Sufficiency; Survival
  • Honor; Ethics

Discussion Questions for this book:

The best discussion questions, of course, are generated by and contemplated by readers. These questions are designed to avoid major spoilers about the book, and to provide a starting point for teachers, parents, and student reading groups.

**Questions Coming Soon**

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